WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for April 2-7: The role of desal in CA’s water portfolio; Sea level rise and Delta wetlands; Maps show how California’s extremely stormy winter unfolded; and more …

A wrap-up of posts published on Maven’s Notebook this week …

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This week’s featured articles …

WEBINAR SUMMARY: What is the potential role of desalination in California’s water portfolio?

With drought becoming a normal feature of life in California, finding reliable ways to increase freshwater resources has become imperative.  One promising solution may be desalination — the process of removing salt and other minerals from seawater or brackish groundwater to make potable water — which could potentially provide improved resiliency and create new sources of potable water within California’s diminishing supplies.

However, high costs and environmental impacts have so far limited the role desalination plays in the state’s water portfolio.  But is there a larger role for desalination in California?  At a webinar held in February 2023, the California Council on Science and Technology brought together four experts to explore the potential and the challenges of expanding desalination in California.

Click here to read this article.

DELTA LEAD SCIENTIST: Sea level rise and the Delta’s wetlands

Wetlands an ‘important battle partner’ in managing sea level rise, plus how atmospheric rivers might factor in

At the March meeting of the Delta Stewardship Council, Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen spotlighted recent research on the effect of sea level rise on wetlands.

Dr. Laurel Larsen began the article spotlight with a question:  How do we estimate which parts of coastal landscapes will be inundated with future sea level rise?

Click here to read this article.


Written for Maven’s Notebook by hydrologist Robert Shibatani

It has indeed been a March full of madness; and for many reasons other than the usual collegiate festivities.

The month has seen a seemingly continual procession of atmospheric rivers battering the State with conditions that have led to levee breaches, localized flooding, land/mudslides, widespread emergency declarations, and mandatory evacuations.  Thankfully, the effects have been largely regionalized compared to previous years, as not all areas of the State have had to endure this year’s weather-related calamities.  The State Capitol region, for example, has remained relatively unscathed… touch wood.

Click here to read this article.


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In California water news this week …

These maps show how California’s extremely stormy winter unfolded

“Atmospheric rivers and cold winter storms have pummeled California since December, deluging the state with rain and building up extreme snow totals. The state’s snowpack is one of its largest ever, in some spots in the southern Sierra Nevada sitting at more than 300 percent of normal levels.  The moisture parade didn’t stop at the coast — it also buried the interior West in snow. This week, Utah broke a 1952 statewide record for the amount of water contained in snowpack. Alta Ski Area in Utah topped 875 inches of snow for the season — its snowiest on record. But what was behind the endless barrage of storms? And how is the changing climate playing a role? … ”  Read more from the Washington Post (gift article).

SEE ALSO7 charts that explain California’s wild winter of 2023, from the San Jose Mercury News

After floods in California and Pakistan comes a scale for ‘atmospheric rivers’

“For skiers it has been an epic winter in California, with more than 16 metres of snow recorded at the Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada. But for many people the excessively stormy winter has brought misery, submerging homes in snow, and causing widespread flooding and landslides across the state. The source of this string of powerful storms has been an “atmospheric river”, with clouds carrying as much moisture as the Mississippi.  Atmospheric rivers are nothing new, but they do appear to be growing more intense and frequent, driven by warmer temperatures and faster evaporation from the world’s oceans. Now scientists have devised an intensity scale for atmospheric rivers, enabling forecasters to rank the severity and identify extremes. The scale, described in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, mirrors the hurricane scale and runs from AR-1 to AR-5, with AR-5 being the most intense. … ”  Read more from The Guardian.

Dramatic photos show how storms filled California reservoirs

“Water levels fell so low in key reservoirs during the depth of California’s drought that boat docks sat on dry, cracked land and cars drove into the center of what should have been Folsom Lake.  Those scenes are no more after a series of powerful storms dumped record amounts of rain and snow across California, replenishing reservoirs and bringing an end — mostly — to the state’s three-year drought.  Now, 12 of California’s 17 major reservoirs are filled above their historical averages for the start of spring. That includes Folsom Lake, which controls water flows along the American River, as well as Lake Oroville, the state’s second largest reservoir and home to the nation’s tallest dam. … ”  Read more and view pictures from The Independent.

California’s snowpack is among the deepest ever. Now get ready for the perilous ‘big melt’

“California’s wet and wintry start to the year has resulted in perhaps the deepest snowpack recorded in more than 70 years, officials said Monday.  The snowpack is so deep that it currently contains roughly 30 million acre-feet of water — or more water than Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, according to a Times analysis of snow sensor data.  But though the bounty has eased drought conditions, experts warn that the dense Sierra Nevada snowpack will soon melt, potentially unleashing torrents of water and creating considerable concern about spring flooding in valleys, foothills and communities below.  “All of that water is going to have to come downhill sooner rather than later,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA. Incoming warmer weather is “good news for a lot of folks who need it, but it does mean that the ‘big melt’ is on the way.” … ”  Read more from the LA Times. | Read via Yahoo News.

After record rains and snow, could Californians face record quakes?

“One of the biggest Sierra snowpacks ever — Mammoth Mountain has more than 72 feet of snow, setting a new record —is already producing some scary flooding in the foothills and Valley as some of that snowpack melts and flows downhill.  But flooding isn’t the only hazard that Californians could face this year.  The extra-heavy weight of the snowpack is pressing down on the Sierra’s granite slopes and affecting the state’s geology, including its earthquake faults. And once that snow melts and the pressure lifts, there could be a corresponding increase in earthquakes later this year on both sides of the Sierra.  UC Berkeley professor Roland Bürgmann, who has studied the impact of water loads on seismicity, is quick to note that those earthquakes are likelier to be on the lower end of the spectrum. The chance of Big Snow causing The Big One is remote, he told GV Wire. … ”  Read more from GV Wire.

San Luis Reservoir nearly full thanks to wet winter

“Less than six months ago, San Luis Reservoir near Gilroy was less than a quarter full. Now, it’s nearly topping its banks.  Since November, the water level at the reservoir, which is a key water supply for millions of Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego, has risen 144 feet.  “Coming out of three incredibly challenging drought years, the fact that we were able to fill San Luis this year is great for water supply south of the delta,” U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Operations Manager Levi Johnson said. “We’re hoping to see those benefits throughout the summer.” … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area.

Despite historic rainfall, Trinity Lake remains dreadfully low. Here’s why.

“Why is Trinity Lake filling at a slower rate than other reservoirs? Jeffrey Mount, Senior Fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center, believes that the state’s northernmost region has received less rainfall relative to other parts. Furthermore, Trinity Lake relies heavily on snowpack for water, unlike Shasta, which mostly depends on rainfall. Much of the snowfall may not melt and flow into the reservoir until late spring or summer. … ”  Read more from Active NorCal.

Costa introduces legislation to repair major California canals

“California’s water delivery system could receive help from the federal government with a new bill introduced to Congress.  Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) introduced the Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to repair four major canals and aqueducts in the Golden State.  The big picture: If Costa can receive the approval of his Congressional colleagues, over $650 million would be sent to California for repairs to the water delivery system. The San Joaquin River is also a focus of the bill, which would restore its salmon runs.  Representatives John Garamendi (D–Walnut Grove) and Josh Harder (D–Turlock) co-sponsored the bill. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

SEE ALSO: Costa Bill Seeks $833M for Canal Repairs, San Joaquin River Salmon, from GV Wire

Pacific Fisheries Management Council recommends closure of 2023 ocean salmon fisheries

“Today, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) acted unanimously to recommend a full closure of California’s commercial and recreational ocean salmon season. Options put forward by the PFMC last month for public review, which were developed by industry representatives, all proposed closure of both commercial and sport ocean salmon fisheries off California. This action follows recent projections showing Chinook salmon abundance off California is at historic lows.  After reviewing the Council’s recommendation, it is expected that the National Marine Fisheries Service will take regulatory action to enact the closure, effective in mid-May. In addition, the California Fish and Game Commission will consider whether to adopt a closure of inland salmon fisheries at its teleconference on May 17. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

California has a new take on mezcal and tequila. How Sacramento-area farmers are leading it

“On recent a brisk March morning in Woodland’s rolling hills, Raul “Reppo” Chavez was already covered in sweat. Chavez and his cousin Antonio had spent the last half-hour hacking away at their agave plants — monstrous pineapple-looking beasts whose spiky leaves are all that can be seen above the soil. The jimadors, as the farmers of the unique succulent are called, were harvesting agave that they planted six to eight years ago. After a stormy weekend, they will roast the 100-pound agave hearts (known as piñas) for five to seven days in an 8-feet-deep pit covered with pumice and volcanic rocks from around Mount Lassen. This is where the burgeoning “Mezcalifornia” movement begins. It ends up in small-batch agave spirits produced by craft distilleries throughout the state. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee.

California’s thirsty future: The role of vapor pressure deficit in our changing climate and drought

“California is no stranger to the impacts of climate change. From droughts to wildfires to rising sea levels and torrential rains, the state has felt the effects of a changing climate in a variety of ways. One measure of climate that is of particular concern in California is vapor pressure deficit (VPD), as it has far-reaching implications for people’s health and safety, ecosystem conservation, and economy. In this blogpost, we will explore what vapor pressure deficit is, how it is affected by climate change, and its implications for California. … ”  Continue reading from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta water districts to receive appellate attorneys’ fees as private attorneys’ general after successfully prosecuting the State Water Resources Control Board’s curtailment overreach in 2015

“On April 4, 2023, the Santa Clara County Superior Court ordered the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) to reimburse a group of California irrigation districts and water agencies (Districts) for substantial appellate attorneys’ fees incurred defending California water rights holders as private attorneys’ general against the State Board’s illegal curtailment actions in 2015 (Appellate Attorneys’ Fees Order). The Appellate Attorneys’ Fees Order is the most recent chapter in the chronicle of the California Curtailment Cases, initially filed seven years ago and coordinated for trial in the Santa Clara County Superior Court. The Districts slated to recoup attorneys’ fees for successfully defeating challenges by the State Board on appeal include Byron-Bethany Irrigation District, Banta Carbona Irrigation District, Central Delta Water Agency, Patterson Irrigation District, San Joaquin Tributaries Authority, South Delta Water Agency, and South San Joaquin Irrigation District. Although the final calculation of appellate attorneys’ fees is pending, the final award is estimated to be in excess of $735,000. … ”  Read more from Somach Simmons & Dunn.

Wastewater treatment facilities could be a solution for cities’ organic waste challenges

” SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) is perhaps the most significant legislative effort in California to mitigate climate change since 2006. The law calls for a dramatic reduction in the landfilling of food, yard, and other organic waste in order to lower methane emissions by 40% by 2030. Methane is a powerful, but short-lived climate pollutant that is extremely effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere.  Reducing methane emissions through SB 1383 is one of California’s primary climate change mitigation strategies. Under certain circumstances, municipal water resource recovery facilities could partner with the state and local entities to divert organic waste away from landfills using anaerobic digestion. The process is already an integral component of wastewater treatment, and over 90% of wastewater in California is treated at facilities utilizing anaerobic digestion. … ”  Read more from Western City.

The oceans just reached their hottest temperature on record as El Niño looms. Here are 6 things to watch for

“Scientists have watched in astonishment as ocean temperatures have steadily risen over the past several years – even as the cooling La Niña phenomenon had a firm grip on the Pacific. The oceans have been record-warm for the past four years, scientists reported in January. Then in mid-March, climatologists noted that global sea surface temperature climbed to a new high.  The incredible trend worries experts about what could lie ahead, especially as forecasts predict El Niño is on its way starting this summer – and along with it, impacts like extreme heat, dangerous tropical cyclones and a significant threat to fragile coral reefs.  Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with the University of California, Los Angeles, said there is already a “dramatic transition” from La Niña to El Niño happening in the tropical Pacific.  “Right now, the atmosphere and the ocean are both in sync and screaming ‘El Niño rapid development’ over the next few months,” he said. … ”  Read more from CNN.

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In commentary this week …

Painful step: Shutdown of fishing season necessary to save California salmon

Charlton H. Bonham, the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, writes, “Every year a remarkable fish swims through California’s rivers into the Pacific Ocean and then returns to start again for a new generation.  Salmon are a cornerstone of religions, creation stories, culture, health and subsistence of Indigenous peoples.  Forest ecosystems depend on salmon to nourish their roots. Hardworking people eke out a living catching them for delicious meals.  California needs salmon to thrive.  Historically, salmon populations returning to California rivers were estimated to be in the millions, annually. Those numbers have diminished since the 1950s. Each reason traces to humans – how we use and manage land and water, and built our infrastructure over decades, now with an overlay of extreme climate disruption, which traces to humans, too.  This year, after almost 10 years of drought with episodic swings of rain, dry, snow and repeat, salmon are not doing well. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

California could have avoided salmon season shutdown. Did we learn nothing last time?

Sarah Bates, commercial fisher and fisheries advocate, writes, “Fishery managers announced this week that salmon fishing in California and most of Oregon is completely closed this year. No weekend trips on the river, no local salmon on the barbecue, no opportunity to see your kid reel in a fish.  I fish salmon commercially from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from my boat, where Chinook have passed for millions of years on their journey from the ocean, through the bay and Delta, up the Sacramento River.  There is communal anticipation before the first trip of the summer, checking anchor winches and hydraulic hoses, safety equipment, leaders, weather reports. Boats are freshly painted and deck tanks for holding fish are installed.  Not this year – this year feels like a funeral. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Fixing Calif. water woes starts with first-hand look at Valley’s devastation

Congressman David Valadao and  Congressman Bruce Westerman (Arkansas), write, “After a years-long drought, much of California is now under water. The state has been hit by a series of atmospheric rivers that have devastated Central Valley communities with flooding and caused widespread damage to farms, businesses, homes, and critical infrastructure. This flooding has brought renewed attention to California’s water problems.  While this desperately needed rainwater has helped to replenish reservoirs and depleted groundwater, we’ve wasted a seemingly immeasurable amount of water that we could have used for when we’re in another inevitable period of drought.  Eventually, this rain will stop. California’s Department of Water Resources calls drought a “recurring feature of our climate” here in the state – something lifelong residents know all too well. … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun.

Dan Walters: California’s water battles continue despite record rain and snow

“On Monday, California water officials slogged through deep snow 7,000 feet above sea level, west of Lake Tahoe, to affirm what everyone already knew: A series of Pacific storms has generated record-level amounts of precipitation, filling reservoirs, inundating low-lying towns and fields and threatening more disastrous flooding as the Sierra snowpack melts.  Its negative aspects aside, the immense amount of rain and snow is welcome relief from drought that has plagued the state for the past three years. But it also is a warning about California’s boom-and-bust precipitation cycle, which is becoming more pronounced with climate change.  It’s a warning that we must do a better job of capturing and conserving water when precipitation is plentiful, because the next drought is just around the corner. That means building more storage, such as the long-delayed Sites Reservoir on the west side of the Sacramento Valley, creating more sinking basins to replenish overdrafted underground aquifers and, most importantly, doing something about the chaotic way in which we manage water. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Newsom is right to lift California’s drought restrictions, but he must prioritize water storage

The Southern California New Group editorial board writes, “Has it stopped raining yet?  Well, yes, it has, although there was a time this early spring in which it felt like one of the wettest California winters since records have been kept was just going to keep pouring merrily along.  But after three of the driest years ever in the Golden State, which lead to official declarations by an organization called the United States Drought Monitor that essentially all of California was suffering from drought conditions, all of our most populated areas, and our most essential agricultural ones as well, have been declared free from drought.  Most importantly for our immediate water future, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is at a level that ties the previous all-time record from the 1950s. While the months of rain in our own backyards have been great for our Southern California suburban lawns — or xeriscapes, whatever —  it’s the coming late-spring and early-summer runoff into rivers from that melting snow that will fully enable us to turn on our kitchen taps or water the roses without worrying that the pipes will go dry. … ”  Read more from the OC Register.

Drought, floods, and the future of California’s water challenges

José Pablo Ortiz Partida, Senior Bilingual Water and Climate Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes, ““Is California still in a drought?” is the single most-asked question I hear as someone working daily with water science, advocacy, and policy in California. That question will arise again on April 3 as water officials carry out the season’s final snow survey.  My answer as an advocate is the drought won’t end until everyone in California has access to drinking water. We must recognize that drought impacts and recovery are not experienced uniformly across the state. While some regions may recover faster, others, particularly disadvantaged communities, often face prolonged water scarcity and compromised water quality. These disparities highlight the need for a comprehensive and equitable approach to water management that prioritizes the most vulnerable populations and ensures that every person in the state can benefit from the state’s efforts to fulfill the Human Right to Water. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

What California overlooks when discussing water supply and farms

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, writes, “CalMatters contributor Jim Newton’s concern over California water is sensible. His solution, singling out Imperial Valley agriculture as the problem, is not. Newton falls into the trap of characterizing farms as California’s biggest water user.  Where does he think crops grown on farms end up? At the grocery store, of course – or at a restaurant, a school cafeteria, Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival, even major fast food chains that buy Imperial Valley lettuce to put on their sandwiches. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters.

Opinion: Catastrophic floods and breached levees reveal a problem California too often neglects

Jeffrey Mount, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center, and Brett Sanders, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Samueli School of Engineering at UC Irvine, write, “For much of the past decade, Californians have been fixated on drought, and rightly so. But the flipside of the state’s volatile climate returned this year, reminding us that “normal” in a land of extremes can be either very wet or very dry.  A dozen or more atmospheric rivers have caused more than $5 billion in damage in the state, with more damage expected when the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts in the coming weeks. State, federal and local governments need to give the risk of such floods the kind of attention we give droughts for several reasons.  First, the potential economic damages of large floods well exceed those of droughts. And floods can be lethal. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

Why April showers could bring May fires to California

Ruben Grijalva, former director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, writes, “Last fall, I was having breakfast in downtown Salinas when I overheard a waitress complaining about the air quality. The odor and light smoke drifting through town was coming from a “prescribed fire” or “controlled burn” that Cal Fire was conducting nearby. And, though the smell might be mildly annoying for a short period, the benefits of fighting fire with fire are tremendous.  “Prescribed fires” are intentionally set fires under controlled conditions to thin, reduce or eliminate ground fuel so that when an uncontrolled fire burns through that area, it will have much less of an impact. Prescribed fires remain one of the best wildfire prevention strategies in the state’s toolbox and a beneficial use of fire. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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In regional water news this week …

Sonoma County introduces slate of new regulations for water wells

“Some 40,000 water wells dot the Sonoma County landscape and they’ve got some new rules.  Despite concerns over data gaps and allowable pumping, Sonoma County’s board of supervisors approved a new slate of regulations for water wells by a 3-2 vote Tuesday, April 4th.  Supervisor Susan Gorin, one of two no-voters, said the rules don’t go far enough to protect dwindling groundwater in vulnerable areas.  “Last year, we found that in Sonoma Valley, the rate of withdrawal was about 1400 acre feet greater than the sustainable recharge rate,” Gorin said. “We have a responsibility to stabilize that withdrawal.” … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media.

Tahoe ski resorts are shattering snow records thanks to late storms

“A Miracle March of late-winter storms pushed snowfall totals at several Lake Tahoe ski areas into historic territory, setting them up to break records this week as small flurries continue falling.  On Tuesday morning, following a day of snow showers, Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe hit 566 inches on the season — just over 47 feet — surpassing its record 564 inches set in the memorable winter of 2016-2017. Heavenly’s deep year is telling of this winter’s intensity because of its location on the east side of the Sierra crest: It gets only carry-over precipitation from storms off the Pacific that pummel the western slopes first. “For a resort on the east side of the basin, this is pretty unheard of,” Tom Fortune, Heavenly’s general manager, told The Chronicle a few days before the record broke. Heavenly, like several other resorts, is taking advantage of the bounty by extending its ski season into the spring. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

What will it cost to protect the Bay Area from sea level rise? Try $110 billion, says state agency

“There’s no shortage of scientific reports on how sea level rise might affect the Bay Area. Now there’s an economic study of what it could cost the region to prepare itself beforehand, and the amount is as daunting as the potential threat: $110 billion.  That is the rough estimate to fully protect all vulnerable shorelines in 2050 if daily tides climb 17 inches — the mid-range scenario of current state projections — and there is a 100-year storm. The year-long study also finds that, so far, just $5.5 billion in public funds have been committed to adaptation efforts during that time frame.  The $104.5 billion gap could shrink as developers spend money to remake the shoreline as part of private commercial projects, as is happening in San Francisco and several cities on the peninsula. But it’s an enormous figure by any measure, members of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission conceded on Thursday after a preview of the results of the study. … ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.

A Bay Area city reels from refinery’s hazardous fallout. Did warnings come too late?

“It was the morning after Thanksgiving when residents in the Bay Area city of Martinez awoke to find their homes, cars and yards blanketed by a mysterious pale residue.  Although the dusting resembled ash, there were no wildfires burning nearby. When residents called local authorities, they learned nothing.  But then, more than a month later, the Contra Costa County Health Department published a two-page notice informing residents that the “white dust” was a hazardous material released by the Martinez Refining Co. on the northern edge of the city.  The health advisory told residents to contact health providers if they were experiencing coughing or difficulty breathing, and that the health department recommended not eating food grown in soil that was exposed to the material.  Today, residents of this tight-knit community 30 miles northeast of San Francisco are still demanding to know what risks they face after 20 tons of spent catalyst were lofted over area homes, and why it’s been so hard to get answers. … ”  Read more from the LA Times.

With ‘horizontal levee,’ Palo Alto brings new approach to sea-level rise protection

“The newest levee in the Palo Alto Baylands will look nothing like the others.  Once completed, it will stand between Harbor Marsh and the Regional Water Quality Control Plant, gradually rising from the tidal marshes of the bay and toward the grassier landscapes around Byxbee Park and the wastewater plant. Unlike the existing levees, which tend to be more steep, hulky and rocky, the new one will function as an ecotone — a transitional zone between the two habitats and a new refuge for endangered Baylands species such as the Ridgway’s rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse. … ”  Read more from Palo Alto Online.

Monterey Peninsula water district offers $448M for Cal Am delivery system; Cal Am says no

“Monterey Peninsula water officials, buffeted by a standing-room-only crowd of supporters of a public takeover of California American Water Co., made an offer to the water retailer of $448 million for its delivery system on Monday. Cal Am immediately refused, setting up a condemnation battle in the courts.  Five years after voters approved Measure J requiring the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District to pursue the feasibility and acquisition of the Peninsula water system from Cal Am, the district board of directors unanimously green-lighted the appraised value of Cal Am based on an earlier closed session vote.  The district sent over the offer to Cal Am at about 3:30 p.m. Monday. Cal Am has often criticized the district for the money it has been spending, but that hasn’t phased supporters. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald.

Santa Barbara County planners deflect a Cuyama Valley ‘water grab’ by Harvard University

“When a subsidiary of Harvard University’s investment company bought the North Fork Ranch in the parched high desert of the Cuyama Valley in 2012 and planted 840 acres of wine grapes, the locals were worried.  The 6,565-acre ranch, south of Highway 166 and the Cuyama River and nine miles west of New Cuyama, had been historically used as dry rangeland — but Harvard drilled 16 wells to irrigate its new vineyard, the largest in the valley. The county doesn’t require a zoning permit to grow grapes, but Robbie Jaffe, co-owner of Condor’s Hope Ranch, a five-acre vineyard less than two miles from North Fork, was concerned that the pumping for the new vineyard — she didn’t know back then that it belonged to Harvard — would affect her small operation.  “We were just astounded that there could possibly be the water supply in this area to put in a vineyard that size,” Jaffe said. “It was literally shocking.” … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent.

By smallest of margins Mono Lake avoids water diversions quadrupling

“In remarkable deep snow conditions, Mono Lake Committee staff skied from Lee Vining to the lakeshore this morning, April 1, to read the level of Mono Lake cooperatively with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP).  The level today establishes the maximum allowed DWP water exports for the next twelve months, and this year was an unprecedented photo finish at a critical threshold.  The official consensus reading was 6379.99 feet above sea level, a mere eighth of an inch—the thickness of two quarters and less than the length of a Mono Lake brine shrimp—below the 6380.00 threshold set forth in DWP’s licenses to divert water from Mono Lake’s tributary streams.  The level means that DWP can proceed to export 4,500 acre-feet of water in the runoff year ahead, although there is little need for it in this wet year and the Committee has asked that diversions be temporarily suspended until the lake rises to the higher, healthy level mandated by the State Water Board. … ”  Read more from the Mono Lake Committee.

Kern groundwater sustainability agencies work to reverse ‘inadequate’ status

“In March, the California Department of Water Resources deemed the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for six groundwater basins across the state to be inadequate. The Kern County Subbasin was on that list.  The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District is a part of the Kern County Subbasin, which is managed by the Kern River Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Officials say despite their management plans being insufficient, they are still working to implement their plans at the local level.   “This is too important for us to have this turned over to the state board. We just can’t have that,” said Kern River GSA Board Member Gene Lundquist. … ”  Read more from Channel 23.

Imperial Valley: As river runs dry, desert region is at a crossroads

“For a hundred years, ever since engineers diverted water from the Colorado River, farming has shaped and sustained life in the valley. Imperial County’s $2.9 billion agriculture sector, wholly dependent on the Colorado River, accounts for a quarter of its economy, employing one-sixth of its workforce. Scientists warn the river could run dry within two years. As it dwindles, the region stands at a crossroads.  “If agriculture goes away, so goes the community,” said Tina Shields, water manager for the Imperial Irrigation District.  The Imperial Valley is home to 180,000 people. The largely Latino county has the state’s lowest median income and its highest jobless rate. Entitled to more than a third of all the water in the Colorado River’s Lower Basin, the region is both rich in water and uniquely reliant on it. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert.

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Announcements, notices, and funding opportunities …

NOTICE: Public Comment Period Opens for Resubmitted Madera Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plans with ‘Incomplete’ Determinations

NOTICE: Order Rescinding Curtailment and Reporting Orders for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Watershed

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